How does surrogacy work in Canada?

So…what’s the deal with gestational surrogacy?

Unlike in other parts of the world, surrogacy in Canada is entirely altruistic–meaning that a surrogate can only carry a pregnancy unselfishly, and not for any sort of compensation. The laws that govern surrogacy in Canada stem from the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, 2004 or the AHRA. The law states quite clearly that any compensation of a surrogate could result in up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Reimbursement of our surrogate’s costs (as outlined Health Canada’s guidance document) is considered acceptable.

In addition to altruism, the federal government stipulates that a surrogate must be over 21 years old and an egg donor must be over 18. Many clinics and agencies will also have their own rules about who can be a surrogate (age, BMI, health conditions, etc.) We are looking for someone who is in their mid-to-late 30s, very healthy, has had successful pregnancies in the past, has built a wonderful family and support system, and loves being pregnant! Our preference is someone who has never been a surrogate before, and doesn’t live too far, so that we can participate in the journey as much as possible.

Unfortunately, your embryo does not magically appear in your surrogate. Surrogacy demands IVF (in-vitro fertilization) where eggs are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries and sperm is provided by a man. The egg is fertilized by the sperm outside of a woman’s uterus and then inserted into the surrogate via a small catheter. We will obviously delve into this in more detail as we go through the process ourselves but for now we will say this: IVF involves lots of medication, needles, ultrasounds, and visits to the doctor by both you and your surrogate.

Lastly, it is important to note that legal parentage is dependant on provincial laws. We’ve been advised that the best places in Canada to have a child born via surrogacy are Ontario or British Columbia. In these provinces, a birth registration is a relatively simple process. Other provinces have different processes and we recommend speaking to a lawyer before deciding on a particular surrogate.

To summarize, surrogacy in Canada is not a walk in the park. It has legal (both federal and provincial), medical, and significant financial implications. We know the journey we are in for will not be an easy one, but it is one that we are proud to share with you. We know how much a blog like this would have helped us in our journey, so we hope we can pass this knowledge on to you.

Zane

What in the womb is going on here?

Photo credit: Wilson Szeto

Welcome to our blog: Not My Tummy (But I’m Still Mummy!). I believe that sharing our story will help reduce the stigma around medical infertility and gestational surrogacy in Canada. When my partner and I began this journey, we struggled with the lack of first-hand knowledge that was available to us. We are building this blog and chronicling our journey with you to fill that knowledge gap. We hope that this will help other Canadian couples experiencing infertility and requiring gestational surrogacy in the future. I never thought my story was that compelling, but today I think that changes.

Zane and I are now beginning our journey towards building a family by working with a gestational surrogate. I’ve known concretely that I won’t be able to carry my own pregnancies for several years and we have been slowly sharing that with the people in our lives. I have epilepsy, and the medication which controls my seizures has severe risks to a growing fetus. Neurologists, fertility specialists, and pharmacists alike have warned against carrying a child. I tried switching to another medication in order to make carrying a child a possibility, and the results were disastrous.

When I made the decision to remain on my current medication, (thereby not being able to gestate) my family and friends were incredibly supportive. It didn’t absolve me of the guilt for making that decision (it’s not one that any person takes lightly), but it certainly helped. Since starting a family was a few years away, I was not too concerned about what was to come.

In the time that followed, Zane and I got engaged, bought a condo in Toronto, and settled into our careers. We planned a big, beautiful wedding, and with just months to go until the big day, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Since then, we’ve postponed our wedding three times and welcomed a beautiful puppy named Dodi into our lives.

So now what? We begin a new and exciting chapter, and we bring you along for the ride. So buckle up, because from here on out, even though it’s not my tummy, I’m still Mummy.

Baden

P.S. Be sure to follow us on Instagram! @notmytummy